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Travelers' Choice 2014

A History of Castle Oaks House Hotel

By Joe Carroll Historic Castleconnell

Castle Oaks House Hotel is situated in the townland of Stradbally where the area's first village was sited as far back as the sixth century. There is traditional belief in the locality that Saint Patrick walked the riverside path at Woodlands on his missionary journey through Ireland. Here can be seen a large stone bearing a man's footprints &  the impression of a snake running over the edge into the water. It is believed that from here Patrick banished the serpent into the Shannon, & its people. In the mid-eighteenth century & for the following seventy years or so, Castleconnell enjoyed a building room with the erection of many fine Georgian & neo-classical style mansions- most of them built along the banks of the Shannon. In no other part of Ireland were so many splendid dwellings to be found, all within a distance of a few miles, &  all having their own distinctive features & character.

In all there were nineteen great houses fringing both sides of the river at Castleconnell. Here the aristocracy of Munster established themselves bringing a further degree of elegance to the already sylvan beauty of the little Shannonside village. The nobility - or the gentry - as they became known were the leaders of society in that era, & as the number of great houses increased Castleconnell gained the reputation of being one of the principal centres of entertainment in the south of Ireland. Much of its popularity then was influenced by the curative qualities of its famous spa water - a chalybeate spring that was equally comparable with the spa wells of Germany. To partake of the water from this health giving fountain came the Country's gentry, the gay young spendthrift blade & the elegant young ladies of society.

In their wake were the fortune hunters & social climbers all joining in the gaiety, the feasting, the gambling & the general merrymaking that was part of the scene then & which continued right up to the end of the eighteenth century.Then the fickle rich grew tired of it all, & began to look for other ways to spend their leisure time.
Around this time too the great houses on the Shannon frequently held banquets & social gatherings where the privileged ones were always included on the guest list.

Mountshannon, Hermitage, Woodlands, Summerhill, Waterpark & Erinagh were some of the houses that played host to many of the extravaganzas. But the enchanting wonderland & the days of gracious living that surrounded the aristocracy & the landed gentry of that time passed all too soon, & of the aforementioned great houses, only Woodlands - now Castle Oaks House Hotel - has survived & continues to prosper into a new millennium.

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